By: Elizabeth Corridan
SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WGGB) — Since 15 year-old Phoebe Prince took her own life last month, the South Hadley High School administration has been conducting an internal investigation into allegations she was bullied. At Thursday night’s special session of the school committee, Superintendent Dr. Gus Sayer read a prepared statement. He said:
In the weeks prior to Phoebe’s death, a small number of students, in two unrelated groups, began to harass Phoebe, by indicating their dislike of her and making vulgar comments to her. The first instance of bullying the school learned of was the incident in a classroom that occurred about a week before Phoebe’s death. During the weekend that followed, some students made defamatory statements and/or slurs about Phoebe on Facebook. In the final weeks of her life a second group of students bullied Phoebe by approaching her and repeating those slurs to her in the library, in the corridors, on her way home from school, and on Facebook.
According to Superintendent Sayer, neither Phoebe, nor her family, nor any other students reported the bullying prior to her death. He also says that some students were uncooperative with the investigation at the advice of their parents. Disciplinary hearings are on-going but the school will not be releasing the names of the students reprimanded or the punishments handed out. Those punishments can include suspension, expulsion, and referral to the police for further investigation.
Criminal investigations by the police and district attorney’s office continue. Meanwhile, South Hadley High School is looking to move forward. Superintendent Sayer said, “We will emerge from this tragedy and we will do so because the vast majority of our students are caring young people.”
The next step for South Hadley High School is convening an anti-bullying task force. The first meeting is scheduled for February 23rd.